Feature Design Sony Tablet
Feature Design Sony Tablet

The goal: containers for content

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Sakata:The fun of Android™is easily getting the apps you want and customizing your device. In this sense, tablet computers are just a way to hold a bunch of apps. Although this applies to all tablets, “Sony Tablet” is clearly different. That's because the UI of “Sony Tablet” was designed from the start with this role in mind.

A good example is the “Favorites” screen. Most Android™ devices show app launcher options on Home screens, and you launch an app before choosing content. In contrast, the “Favorites” screen shows all kinds of music, images, games, bookmarks, and other content in a seamlessly integrated way. It's satisfying that content, not apps, is directly within reach.

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This "content first" thinking extends to cover art view when you browse music. To date, playing music has involved a ritual of finding and then selecting tracks in an alphabetical album list. Instead of this, in cover art view you can sort music by criteria such as albums that you haven't finished listening to, or that you recently played or purchased. It's as if the albums are spread out over a table. Find one you want to listen to and simply tap it to start playback immediately. After a while, the controls fade away and the main element on the screen is the album cover. In this way, it's an immersive music experience for your eyes and ears.

The same is true for video. Instead of requiring you to move a slider to find the scenes you want, “Sony Tablet” automatically create thumbnails for easier selection. Pick up a tablet, and you'll find yourself wanting to touch a lot of things on the screen. In this respect, the tablets are full of details that will not disappoint you.

The fun of gestures, accelerated

Sakata:You'll notice how, once you select content, the image will expand instantly and play the starring role on the screen. Visual transitions driven by a powerful 3D graphics engine produce an impressive sense of depth, which makes operations enjoyable. It's fun to control devices intuitively, simply by touch, and we brought this to life through many aspects of GUI design.

But no matter how thoroughly we implement an enjoyable touch-based GUI experience, it would all be wasted on a sluggish device. In this area, Sony has teams that optimize software and hardware, and we've gained expertise in applying original technology for a satisfying user experience from responsive controls and smooth display. Insisting on enjoyable usability, we fine-tuned the GUI.

 

One example is when you scroll screens by dragging with your finger. We sought a level of tracking for this action that makes it seem as if the screen is virtually stuck to your finger as you move it. To make it happen, our design team attended prototype testing sessions with Sony engineers, describing the effect we wanted in detail. How much should screens respond to gestures? How closely should they follow slight finger movement? Fortunately, our dedicated and cooperative engineers worked together with us in repeated fine-tuning of the display, down to the level of individual pixels.

The virtual keyboard was another interface element we focused closely on. Touch panels generally respond immediately as soon as you lift your finger from the screen, but we were concerned about cases where a lag might occur during text input. To avoid this, we evaluated the virtual keyboard user experience repeatedly until we could make the screen respond immediately when touched. You may appreciate the responsiveness as minor spelling mistakes are corrected efficiently during rapid typing.

Updating usability design

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Takahashi:I'm involved in usability and information structure design. For me, the dual-screen tablet proved especially challenging to create. In the first place, Android™ was not developed with dual screens in mind. Initially it was very unsettling to see photos or videos partly displayed on both screens, centered in the middle between them. I worked with the GUI team to find and resolve each issue. We also considered which screen to show content and interface elements on. After all, dual-screen tablets are an unprecedented class of products, so we had to start from nothing when deciding matters of usability.

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"Sony Tablet" feels decidedly different in use than other tablets to date, but we have ensured that operation is clear. Besides offering original Sony apps, the tablets give you access to other Android apps of your choice, so both kinds of app will coexist on a tablet. Knowing this, we were concerned that if the preinstalled apps were too different from others, it might be inconvenient. As we took steps to avoid this, we discovered how difficult yet interesting it is to develop apps with just the right balance of originality and universality.

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